Felix Culpa

This sprawling and densely written 400-page study of Southern political thought, from Old Republicans John Taylor of Caroline and John Randolph of Roanoke down to Whig social theorists (and humorists) John Glover Baldwin and Johnson Jones Hooper—with wedged-in discussions of such other Southern luminaries as Nathaniel Beverley Tucker, St. George Tucker, William Gilmore Simms, and John C. Calhoun—is truly an encyclopedic work.  The fact that it was carried out by a young man without a promising academic post strikes me almost as dramatically as the author’s accomplishments.  Tate has moved, since he completed this text, from one not often heard of institution in Morrow, Georgia, to Stillman College in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.  His rank (alas) remains that of assistant professor.  Tate’s present employer is a black Presbyterian college, originally established to educate former slaves.

I mention these biographical details because they illustrate a problem that cries out for a solution.  Young Professor Tate has produced a study in intellectual history and in the history of political theory that 99.9 percent of those in his field, even those ensconced at elite universities, could never equal.  Tate, who links his subjects to European political thought, Christian theology, and philosophy with ease and learning, can expect to earn only a small proportion of what these political intellectuals...

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